Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dior Diorama new re-issue 2010: Fragrance Review & Musings on Reformulation

When one of the revered classics gets re-issued, it is cause for celebration. Or disenchantment. It really is a delicate balance. Diorama is no stranger to various versions circulating through the years since its original creation by Edmond Roudnitska in 1949. (You can read our own review on this page) Alternatively dirtier/raunchier (perfume aficionado speak is "skanky") or like a bowl of sunny late summer fruit left on the table to ripen a tad longer than usual (thanks to the famous Prunol base which Roudnitska was so fond of), Diorama has had its phases. The latest one involves a re-issue, just this minute going downtown in specific stores wordlwide (contrary to its Parisian Avenue Montaigne exclusivity as of last year) and a different attribution: to François Demachy, creative art director and head perfumer at parfums Dior, rather to Edmond Roudnitska. What does this mean? Many things.

  • First of all, the industry secret on it being reworked was revealed to me quite a while ago alongside the difference attribution, when approached by a journalist who wanted my input for his research on something concerning the brand and the perfumer. I hope to be able to reveal the length of our coming and goings in the future. But I digress. The matter is the attribution to Demachy signals a change in the formula. Surely, the formula had been tweaked a couple of times already, like mentioned above. But the name of the illustrious creator was guarded as a porte-chance (a good luck charm). Divesting it of its legendary lineage creates an enigma as to whether Demachy has gained full creative control at Dior under the LVMH shortage of budgets for creations or whether his talents are sort of "sold short" as I believed, especially given his tutoring under Edmond himself. (After all François Demachy did beautiful work when the formula restrains were either lifted momentarily for J'Afore L'Absolu or concaved into the inherent idea of simplicity in the style proposed, as in Escale à Portofino). Is an attribution of the reworking of an acclaimed fragrance the final test and the signal from LVMH that there is perfumer lineage there? Is it merely a marketing trick? Or a desire to highlight the role of their head perfumer?

  • Another aspect is that the former unattainability of Diorama (being a Paris flagship Dior store exclusive) for most of the perfume lovers the world over is now into crumbles, even if the places of sale are not low-brow at all. Still, the opening to the Anglo-Saxon market signals something important in the luxury business outlook. Namely that creating a hard-to-get exclusive creates a frenzy (uncle Serge played this game first and best) but you have to make sure that that frenzy finds a way to invade the biggest consumer market of them all and the one more attuned to the Internet: the USA and North America in general. Ergo Saks is now carrying Diorama as an exclusive, catering for the increased awareness of classics and more obscure fragrances by an audience which was brought up on the Internet or delurked enough to take notice. It was with surprise I had found out last year that even regular fare which we consider normal perfume counter-material (Diorella, Miss Dior etc.) is hiding beneath specific counters in the US and you have to explicitly ask for them to try them out. Maybe LVMH has finally realised they're sitting on a (very) dumped down brand (lately) and decided to make amends? Let's hope so!

  • Which leaves us with the actual fragrance of the re-issued Diorama. How does it smell like? To cut a long story short, it is still recognisably Diorama, meaning a ripe juice with plummy goodness embracing an unidentified white flower at the heart, somewhere between sweet jasmine and the caramelised scent of immortelle.
    Comparing with the till recently circulating re-issue on Avenue Montaigne one would detect some cleaning up which veered it further into Le Parfum de Thèrese direction with a bastardised peach overripeness rather than melon; and at the same time further away from Femme (both Roudnitska creations, the latter preceding Diorama, the former following it). It was still a nice perfume, but not on a par with the older vintages and I personally voted with my wallet for the contemporary bottles of Diorling.
    The Diorama re-issue of 2010, much like the 50s vintage versions, is closer to Femme with its patisserie density and its bosom-heavy cumin tonalities and sports a particularly vivid Damascena rose on its lapel alongside the peaches and plums. Still, the inky, muddy depth of oakmoss is flamboyant in its...absence. The new re-issue of Diorama feels more like a fruity woody with a thin voice than a traditional chypre with timber tibre, much as it tries...

The re-issued Diorama is currently a Saks exclusive in the US, and available at Harrods and Fortnum's in London. Dior is re-issuing their classics under an umbrella collection called Les Créations de Monsieur Dior (no matter that Dior died in 1957 before many were conceived). You can read all about those here.


  1. Marie16:00

    I read yesterday that the re-issued Diorama is also going to be available at Debenham's in the UK.

  2. Rappleyea00:13

    Harrumph! It's all I can do to be civil on the subject of reformulations! If the scent is so different as to warrant a different attribution, then it needs a new name - IMO!

    Still... I'd love to sample this series as I've smelled and worn the older versions. And of course wore and loved the original (pre-cummin) Femme.

    Thanks as always for your review.

  3. Mimi Gardenia06:12

    I'm excited ! I'm very happy this has been re-issued !

  4. M,

    thanks for the added info!!
    Cool :-)

  5. D,

    I think they're trying to bring it back to its roots (it was quite different in its modern interpretation, which was not so much the case for Diorling) BUT without the questionable ingredients. Hence the different attribution, it's a rejingled formula. ;-)

    It's nice enough, but I miss the depth of the old chypres.

  6. MG,

    it's always a happy instance when something good becomes more easily available to more people. The world should be a more beautiful place anyway...

  7. Anonymous04:09

    I went to Saks in Los Angeles today looking for Diorama and Diorling. They didn't know anything about either. I then went to Dior on Rodeo Drive and they didn't have either scent as well. Do you know where, exactly I can get either in the USA? Thanks for your help!

  8. Anonymous13:43

    I wore Diorama in the early 70's and was dismayed around 1977 to find that it had been discontinued. In 1983 I transferred my loyalties to Este Lauder's Knowing - which has been my favourite ever since. At an airport duty free shop a couple of weeks ago I purchased a Dior product, and chatted to the assistant about my love of Diorama. I was thrilled to discover it has been re-released and have ordered some on line. I am hoping when it arrives it brings back memories - I will be a happy woman indeed :)

  9. Anon #1,

    sorry for the late reply.

    Dior is elusive in USA, for some reason. I believe one of our readers will know and will provide the info.

  10. Anon #2,

    it's true. It's rather different, lighter and more floral, in my opinion, but nonetheless it will bring back good memories, I'm sure.


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